Home improvement: It’s a never-ending process for many people, and for those of us who aren’t necessarily handy, it can be a hassle, too.

But there are plenty of simple maintenance tasks and other improvements you can handle to make your home safer – whether you’re handy or not. And you won’t have to break out the power tools (or any tools at all in some instances) or worry about getting in over your head.

Water Works
You need running water in your home – but not water running in your home, if you know what we mean. Even minor leaks can cause major problems, from higher water bills to damage requiring costly repairs (maybe even the kind you can’t tackle yourself). Here are some easy ways to make sure your water stays where it should:

  • Check your appliances. They’re the most common source of water leaks in homes, so it’s worth taking a look at least once a year to check for problems. And the hoses that come with your washer and dishwasher can mean big trouble – they break down over time. Look for kinks and cracks, and replace if needed. Consider using reinforced hoses, too; those with steel braiding or mesh won’t hold up forever, but they’re stronger than rubber or plastic.
  • Watch the pressure. Water pressure that is set too high can cause pipes, hoses and water lines to leak or burst. Inexpensive gauges are available at home-improvement stores to test your pressure.
  • Consider installing water sensors. These can alert you to a leak or other problem soon after it occurs – some can even send messages to your smartphone.

Keep Your Family (and Your Guests) On Their Feet
Millions of Americans – many of them older adults – are injured in falls each year. About 2.5 million were hurt in 2013 alone, according to the National Safety Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Look around your home. Should you make some of these fixes?

  • Reduce clutter. Everything from small pieces of furniture to area rugs can pose a hazard, so make sure they’re in appropriate places and out of the way if possible.
  • Add stability to stairs. Make sure stairways have sturdy rails, and maybe even non-slip strips, particularly outdoors.
  • Let there be light. It’s hard to walk safely when you can’t see obstacles or potential trouble spots. Make sure your home is well-lit, and don’t forget night lights, too.

Give Everyone Some Air
Pollution isn’t just an outside thing – the air in your home can be unhealthy, too. But helping people breathe a little easier isn’t hard when you follow these steps:

  • Test the air (and your detectors). Make sure you have working carbon-monoxide and smoke detectors and test them regularly. Also, consider testing your home for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can be dangerous over time.
  • Check your filters and ducts. Keeping your furnace filter and air ducts clean will keep your air cleaner as well. And consider adding some of nature’s air filters: plants.
  • Keep your home clean. Dust doesn’t just build up on the furniture – it ends up in the air as well. Regular cleaning means cleaner air (just be sure to use safe products).

Home improvement doesn’t have to mean a kitchen remodel or finishing the basement. Making your home safer, in fact, just might be the best improvement of all.

For a no-cost, no-obligation quote, contact us here.

1. You haven’t made it a priority as a small business

Small business owners sometimes figure they don’t need to carry much insurance because they don’t have a lot of assets. But someone who sues you doesn’t necessarily care how much money you have. They may, unfortunately, intend to destroy you financially. And the smaller a business is, the more likely it is that an owner or manager can be held personally liable. So in a way, small businesses are at a much higher risk than big enterprises, because one lawsuit can be devastating.

Never been sued? You’re lucky. The Small Business Administration estimates that 36 to 53 percent of all businesses will be involved in litigation in any given year. For many of those, a business insurance policy will cover the costs of settlements, judgments, and legal fees. Unfortunately, some companies will discover their coverage is lacking. Here are some indicators that your business may be underinsured..

2. You’re in the business of advice

Anyone who gives advice for a living is at risk of misunderstandings, client dissatisfaction, and simple human error. Advice-giving professions are not limited to fields like counseling and financial planning. Here’s just a short list of professions that also give advice: tax preparers, home inspectors, building contractors, wedding planners, professional organizers, life coaches, sales trainers, and motivational speakers.

3. You have employee turnover

Even your most trusted employee can make a mistake that costs your company thousands of dollars. So if you have high turnover, there’s even more exposure to risk. A government study of small business lawsuits found that after a suit, business owners primarily wished they had trusted their employees less, purchased insurance, and made sure every employee was bonded.

4. You only have one kind of insurance

There are many types of business insurance. General liability and business owner’s policies (BOPs) are some of the most basic, but if that’s all you have, it can be a sign that you are not fully insured. Review other types of insurance, like: property, commercial auto, worker’s compensation, errors and omissions (E&O), directors’ and officers’ (D&O), cyber liability, employment practices, business interruption, and umbrella policies which supplement existing policies against catastrophic loss.

5.  It’s a high-risk business

It might not feel like your business falls into the typical high-risk categories, like doctors, lawyers, online gambling, and adult-oriented services. But there are dozens of other fields that come with high risk. Software developers, for example, can accidentally cause millions of dollars in lost revenue due to glitches. Sometimes there is risk simply because the business deals with highly emotional situations, as funeral directors do. Your insurance company can do a risk assessment that clarifies your situation and highlights areas that might need coverage.

6. You haven’t reviewed your policy lately

If you’ve been renewing the same policy for years, and can’t recall exactly what it covers, it’s time to take a fresh look. Tech issues have created new risks. For example, if  your employees handle credit card information, or deal with a large amount of customer data, it might be time to look into cyber liability and data breach coverage.

7. You’ve never been sued or made a claim

Although it’s counterintuitive, if you’ve never been sued or made an insurance claim, it might be an indicator that you’re underinsured. Why? Because lawsuits and disasters force companies to review and update insurance policies. One study found that 94 percent of business owners assumed they were fully covered in the event of a disaster, but just 56 percent actually were.

SEE ALSO: Why Do I Need Errors and Omissions Insurance Coverage? 

Click here to get an insurance quote and ensure your business is fully covered.

Reprinted with permission from Links Insurance

Cyber liability. It might sound futuristic, but its time has come.

To address a common misconception head on, it’s not limited to tech companies. Cyber liability coverage is a must for any business that handles sensitive client information— credit cards, customer records, and other confidential data. Nowadays, nearly every company deals with this sort of information as a part of the normal course of business.

The Basics

Cyber liability and data breach coverage provides protection against the costs your company can incur when a data security situation occurs. For example. say you run a small-town fitness center that charges cards on a monthly basis, and an employee steals customer bank account information.

You gathered this information with good intentions – to charge your customers’ monthly membership fees in a convenient way – and did your best to protect it in a secure system. But, unfortunately, an employee with some computer knowledge accessed the information and made fraudulent purchases on customer bank accounts. This is a data breach— and now you’re on the hook for the cost.

These situations often end up in court. If a judge orders your company to pay a settlement, legal fees or other court costs, cyber liability insurance can help. It was designed to save your business from a devastating financial blow.

A Bit of History

The first cyber policy was written in 1997 in response to the alarming rise of hackers, or high-tech thieves, who began targeting organizations in a systematic manner. During the late 1990s and 2000s, these insurance policies expanded as hacking expanded.

The insurance industry has updated policy coverage over the years to include many types of sophisticated data breaches. Cybercrime now costs the global economy $450 billion a year – yet 53 percent of businesses still report being ill-prepared for cyber attacks.

So is your business really at risk? Small business owners sometimes think data thieves primarily target big companies like Target – one of the famous cases we see in the headlines. However, 62 percent of cyber attacks are on small and mid-sized businesses. And of those, 60 percent of small businesses go out of business within six months due to the financial strain. Plus, small businesses rely on homegrown strategies like word of mouth and friend referrals – which are quickly tainted when a security breach occurs. Suddenly your business is the talk of the town, and not in a good way.

Risk and Planning

So the question is not so much if your business will be affected by a data breach, but when – and what you can do about it. Security experts say the best way to prepare for cyber attacks, and minimize their impact, is to put a plan in place ahead of time. Train employees how to handle sensitive data and train them how to respond if a data breach is suspected. Make sure everyone in your organization knows the plan from the first moment they handle customer information.

Having cyber liability insurance also creates a plan. If the worst case scenario happens, insurance helps you quickly defray the cost of a data breach and move on to restore confidence in your company.

Click here to get a quote and ensure you’re fully covered for cyber attacks.

Original post printed with permission from Links Insurance blog

Errors and Omissions insurance, also known as E&O or professional liability insurance, is an option offered to anyone who provides professional services. Should a client suffer harm due to an error on your part or because you failed to perform a service, you and your company are protected.

Medical providers, lawyers, architects, social service providers, realtor/property managers, and any other professional service provider could benefit from this coverage. In fact, in some cases, it’s required prior to doing your job.

Wondering if you require E&O insurance coverage? Read on for more information about this specialized form of liability insurance.

Mistakes Are Common

Even the most competent employees are capable of making errors. And sometimes, even  with stringent risk management practices in place, a mistake can occur that would put your company at risk of a costly— potentially crippling— lawsuit.

Doctors most often come to mind when E&O insurance is discussed, but they’re just one of the many professions that can benefit from professional liability coverage. Say, for instance, an architect makes a mistake in a blueprint, and it’s not caught until the building is under construction. This could be a very expensive fix without E&O coverage.

As another example, say a financial advisor is hired to manage a portfolio. After the client follows the advisor’s directives, they experience a significant financial loss. The client faults the financial advisor’s counsel as the reason for their losses, and sues to recoup the balance.

As long as the service provider’s negligence was unintentional, the business would be covered by E&O insurance in the event of litigation, whether the claim was founded or not.

When is E&O Insurance Called Into Action?

Broadly speaking, Errors and Omissions liability insurance covers unintentional acts of negligence. These acts include the following:

  • Violation of Good Faith If a client experiences a failure of communication or feels that information was withheld, they could accuse your company of an act of noncooperation.
  • Misrepresentation— You or a representative of your company promises a client that a product, service, or feature will be present; if it’s not as expected, the client could sue your company for misrepresentation.
  • Offering Incorrect Counsel— A client is offered advice, and takes it. However, this advice results in profit loss for the client, so they decide to take legal action against you.

What will E&O Insurance Pay For?

Errors and Omissions insurance offers companies and individuals financial protection should the worst occur. Should a client choose to sue, some of the things the policy will cover include:

  • Legal Fees— These include the attorney’s costs, witness fees, court expenses, and all costs that are related to the proceedings.
  • Settlements— Should the court determine that the client is due compensation, the policy will cover it.
  • Lost Income— Court proceedings take time, and often result in time away from the business, which means that there’s no income coming in. An E&O policy will supplement your income during this time.

What’s NOT Covered by E&O Insurance?

Of course, the list of exclusions on your policy should be carefully examined, as they vary from policy to policy. Here’s a general overview of exclusions that are commonly found in E&O policies:

  • Intentionally setting out to defraud or commit a criminal act against a client by the insured party.
  • Should the wrongful acts in question occur prior to the policy’s inception date, they’re not covered by the liability insurance. .
  • If you or another covered party attempt to defend profit that was made through illegal measures.
  • Punitive damages, which occur when client chooses to seek compensation for any injury that was caused by an act of negligence. They’re also known as exemplary damages.

If you’re interested in getting more information about an errors and omissions policy, we’d love to help. Click here to get a quote today.

*Reprinted with permission from https://www.linksinsurance.com/blog/why-do-i-need-errors-and-omissions-insurance-coverage, article by JoAnne Tubito

Umbrella policies help cover your business for catastrophic losses, providing protection above your primary commercial-insurance policies. With the rising medical and legal costs associated with accidents, third-party lawsuits, and other severe loss exposures, it’s important to start a conversation with your independent insurance agent about umbrella coverage–and soon.

But not sure where to start? Here are five must-ask questions to ensure you’re getting the coverage you need to keep your small business in the black when a catastrophic accident occurs.

  1. How much coverage do I need?

This answer varies from business to business, depending on the size and value of the operation. Keep in mind that brick-and-mortar storefronts are at extra risk; it only takes one customer tripping over a power cord, frayed rug, or merchandise rack to potentially put your business at risk. Work with your independent insurance agent to ensure you have enough coverage to handle expenses related to third-party lawsuits.

  1. When will I need umbrella coverage?

Don’t assume that your business should be a certain size before purchasing. It’s an unpleasant truth that your business might never reach that hypothetical milestone without the right coverage. An accident is just as likely on your first day of business as it is years into your operation. Cover now, so you can grow safely.

  1. What makes some umbrella coverage providers better than others?

Not all insurance providers are created equal and not all of them navigate the scale of umbrella claims as well as others. Make sure your agent connects you with a provider that understands the risks associated with your type of business, knows the ins and outs of managing large legal and medical scenarios, and is dedicated to making certain you’re getting everything you need within the scope of your coverage.

  1. What else can my umbrella provider do for me?

Some insurance providers add value by helping you proactively identify and mitigate risk, providing consulting and more. Liberty Mutual’s crisis management support, which offers up to $250,000 in expenses for PR consulting to help remake your post-accident image after a catastrophic accident, is a great example. Ask your agent which providers can do more than simply cover you.

  1. Can I afford umbrella coverage?

At the risk of sounding cliché, can you afford not to have it? The truth is that a single accident can be very costly to your business; and in an extreme case, can be enough to put you out of business. The cost of umbrella coverage is low–a fraction of the amount you pay to acquire your primary commercial coverage. You’ve invested your emotional, physical, and intellectual efforts into your business; it’s worth making this reasonable investment to protect what you’ve built so far–and what you’ll build in the future.

Click here to get a quote for Umbrella Insurance coverage.

As an entrepreneur, you’re naturally driven and focused. You’re an expert in your business, but there are times when it makes more sense to delegate.

That’s why you brought on an accountant and hired that lawyer. Smart. Make a mistake on your taxes or a contract and you could sink your business.

When it comes to protecting your business against risk, you may think that you need to do it all yourself. But the amount you’d have to know to make an informed decision on your own is enormous, and the smallest oversight could be disastrous years down the line.

You don’t need to make insurance decisions on your own and you don’t have to pick a generic coverage package you’re not sure really fits your business. There is a better way. There are enormous benefits to partnering with an independent insurance agent who can advise you and maximize your protection.

Why you should work with an independent agent.

Independent insurance agents aren’t just service providers. They’re fellow entrepreneurs. Because they’re unaffiliated with insurance companies, independent agents have to work hard to get and keep the trust of their clients. Just like you.

Unlike a captive insurance agent who works for a particular company, an independent agent:

  • Is an objective third-party.
  • Carries deep knowledge of different insurance company offerings.
  • Has a broader selection of coverage and pricing options to choose from.

As a result, an independent agent can create an insurance package that fits your needs and budget.

Just as a bad service experience can be blown up multiple times on social media, a reputation for doing great work can spread far, too. Independent agents make their living through referrals. In order to grow their businesses, they need to be active advisors, look out for their clients’ best interests, and maintain relationships for the long term. That’s not the type of relationship you’d be able to get if you purchased your coverage online.

Insurance, after all, is about the future. When you start expanding locations, adding equipment, or increasing your headcount, you’ll want to have a trusted advisor to call on to make sure your insurance needs are covered.

What you need to know.

Having an independent insurance agent’s advice is important because every business is different. An independent agent likely has customers in your industry that are similar in size, so he or she can quickly guide you toward industry-specific coverages you might need and help you identify potential risks and how to mitigate them.

In addition to helping you find the insurance coverage that fits your specific needs, an agent should also be able to provide you with the type of personal service you want.

The key element is trust. Everything hinges upon the independent agent being your expert set of eyes and ears when it comes to risk.

With that in mind, you’ll want to find an agent who communicates and shares information with you the way you want and who’s an expert in the specific concerns of your industry.

How to pick your agent.

There are many reasons why working with an independent agent can help you better protect your company and position it for success. Here is a checklist of questions to help you select the right insurance professional to meet your business’s specific needs.

When you talk to an agent, work through these questions one-by-one to see if you’ve got the right person:

  • Is the agent licensed in my state?
  • Do he or she have specialization in my industry?
  • How many insurers is he or she appointed with?
  • How many years has he or she been in business?
  • Have my friends or business associates recommended this person?
  • Most importantly, do I feel comfortable with this agent?

This last one is crucial because of the nature of insurance. There are many ways that you can be waylaid by improper coverage, and having an agent you trust is essential to maintaining peace of mind while you focus on growing your business.

A trusted advisor.

Insurance is complicated. Make a mistake choosing your coverage, and one bad storm or a customer injury could wipe out your business. It’s time to pay attention to the risk of not hiring a professional to guide you through the process of selecting insurance.

Bottom line, seeking and considering expert advice can set you up for better results than you could achieve on your own. No one’s better positioned to get you and your business that better result than an independent insurance agent.